Exeter–Barnstaple Railway Line
How busy are its stations?
Why should we be interested in how busy the stations are?
Like most of its kind, the Exeter–Barnstaple rail service costs a great deal more to run than the fares passengers pay to use it. The difference is made up by subsidies paid out of our taxes and rates.
We in NDPTU support the principle of subsidising public transport where necessary. But we believe that the public has a right to know how the funds it provides are used and to participate in decisionmaking about whether they should continue to be deployed as they are or be used differently.
To do this, it is helpful for us to know about how busy the line as a whole is. But this is not enough, for while some parts may be wellused, others may not. To get at this, we need reliable information about how busy each station is.
Knowing how busy each station on the line is won’t tell us everything we need about whether the subsidies we provide are being used well. It will, however, be one of the key factors we must take into account.



Barnstaple station; over 1,200 passengers per day. A good use of resources, surely! 

Portsmouth Arms station; about three passengers every other day, or one every third train on average. A wise use of public funds? 
How do we find out how busy the stations are?
The usual way of determining how much individual stations are used is on the face of it very simple: count the number of passengers who get on and get off the trains at each station. We cannot do this as individuals. Fortunately, however, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) does it for us.
Even for the ORR, it’s not practical to do this directly, day in and day out. But it can reach a reasonably accurate figure by adding up the number of tickets sold to people for travelling to or from each station.
The usual practice is to do this for a year at a time. The result is normally expressed as ‘footfalls’ (a passenger buying a ticket to getting on a train registers as one footfall; so does one getting off). Most of the accounts of station usage, and even of whole lines like the Exeter–Barnstaple line, which we see in the press are represented in this way: so many footfalls per year.
In spite of the jargon of ‘footfalls’, this measure has the virtue of being easily understood. Indeed, we in NDPTU use it as the starting point for many of our calculations, not least because annual footfalls for every station in the country are readily available from the Office of Rail and Road.
Yet it has a major drawback. For many, a single figure of, say, 10,000 footfalls for a particular station, sounds like a lot. It makes it look as if the station is quite busy. This can be an illusion, as Figure 27 below shows.
How can we get a clearer picture of how busy each station is?
10,000 footfalls for a station for a year may sound like a lot. But when you work out how many this is for each day you get a quite different picture. On this basis, 10,000 per year involves an average of no more than about 28 footfalls per day.
Even this, however, is not enough. In NDPTU’s opinion, we can and should take it a step further. Whether a station can be regarded as ‘busy’ does not just depend on how many passengers it sees each day. It also depends on how many trains serve it.
If just one train serves it, then 28 footfalls will make it look quite busy, at least for that train. But what if it is served by 25 or even 30 trains each day? This means that, at this station, each train is picking up or setting down on average just one passenger. There may, of course, be half a dozen passengers for one train. On balance, however, there may be none at all for the next six. It does not look like such a busy station after all.
What, then, do we need to judge how busy the individual stations are?
NDPTU recommends that, for each station, we use three measures:
 Footfalls per year. These are available from official sources;
 Footfalls per day, on average. We can work this out from the yearly total;
 Footfalls per train, on average. For this, we need to know how many trains serve the station each year and how many footfalls they attract. We can work out the first from the timetables. We can get the second from official sources.
In the tables which follow we use all three measures. Of them, we hold the third, footfalls per train, to be the most significant for judging how busy each station is.
Guide to the table
The table below sets out a range of figures about how the stations on the Exeter–Barnstaple railway line relate to each other and how much they were used over the financial year 20172018.
We recommend close study of the table. As a quick guide, however, we suggest that readers should note the following points especially:
 The stations are strung out all along the line. The distances between three of them (Lapford, Morchard Road and Copplestone) are particularly short (columns A and B);
 Six stations (Barnstaple, Umberleigh, Eggesford, Copplestone, Yeoford and Crediton) are served by every train;
 Barnstaple station was overwhelmingly the busiest on the line. It accounted for about 71% of its footfalls (columns E and F);
 Barnstaple station, plus three others, Umberleigh, Eggesford and Crediton, accounted for 91% of all the footfalls for the line (columns E and F);
 Eight other stations accounted for just 9% of the line’s passengers. These included two stations, Copplestone and Yeoford, which are served by every train (columns F and D) and a third, Morchard Road, which is served by every train except one;
 To get a sound view of how busy each station is, one needs to look at more than the footfall figures for the whole year;
 The footfall figures for the whole year (column E) are useful, but the apparently large numbers involved are potentially misleading. For each individual station, a more telling picture is offered by columns G and H. For anyone concerned with how busy each station is, we recommend close study of these columns especially.
Stations in bold were served by all trains during the year.
Notes: 
1 
Barnstaple has more services than the other stations because the Friday night / Saturday morning late train back to Exeter St Davids served only Barnstaple and St Davids. 
2 
The percentage of Chapelton’s total footfalls is 0.0003, or 0.0 to the nearest single decimal place. 
Key: 
A 
Distance in miles to next station 
B 
Station 
C 
Total trains per station for the year 2017–2018. 
D 
Average number of trains per day serving each station, calculated from full weekly timetable (Monday–Friday, Saturday, Sunday) 
E 
Passengers for each station, 2017–2018: Office of Rail Regulation data 
F 
Calculated from column E, to single decimal place 
G 
Average number of passengers per day, based on 350 days (to allow for engineering and Bank Holiday closures), to single decimal place 
H 
Average number of passengers per train, calculated by number of passengers 2017–2018 (column E) ÷ number of trains serving station in 2017–2018 (column C), to single decimal place 
Compiled by North Devon Public Transport Users, January 2019
The Wider Context
We now consider the above station usage figures when compared with those for other rail lines radiating from Exeter, namely those to Axminster (and beyond to Salisbury and London Waterloo), Exmouth, and Paignton, which together with the Barnstaple branch comprise the Devon Metro project.
Figure 27 is a schematic diagram depicting the station usage figures for each of the above lines, in which the distance between stations is shown to scale. As can be clearly seen, with the exceptions of Barnstaple, Umberleigh, Eggesford and Crediton, usage of the Barnstaple line stations, including those served by every train, is very small compared with the other three lines; indeed, for the minor stations they resemble more closely the likely figures for a minibus service.
Figures 28 and 29 show this comparison in bar chart form. In the first of these figures the stations are shown grouped into the four lines whilst in the second they are considered as a single group, although the individual lines use the same colour coding. In both figures the conclusion is immediate: usage of the minor stations on the Barnstaple line pales into insignificance in comparison with the other three lines.
Stations in bold were served by all trains during the year.
Notes: 
1 
Barnstaple has more services than the other stations because the Friday night / Saturday morning late train back to Exeter St Davids served only Barnstaple and St Davids. 
Key: 
A 
Distance in miles to next station 
B 
Station 
C 
Total trains per station for the year 2016–2017. 
D 
Average number of trains per day serving each station, calculated from full weekly timetable (Monday–Friday, Saturday, Sunday) 
E 
Passengers for each station, 2016–2017: Office of Rail Regulation data 
F 
Calculated from column E, to single decimal place 
G 
Average number of passengers per day, based on 350 days (to allow for engineering and Bank Holiday closures), to single decimal place 
H 
Average number of passengers per train, calculated by number of passengers 2016–2017 (column E) ÷ number of trains serving station in 2016–2017 (column C), to single decimal place 
Compiled by North Devon Public Transport Users, December 2017
The Wider Context
We now consider the above station usage figures when compared with those for other rail lines radiating from Exeter, namely those to Axminster (and beyond to Salisbury and London Waterloo), Exmouth, and Paignton, which together with the Barnstaple branch comprise the Devon Metro project.
Figure 22 is a schematic diagram depicting the station usage figures for each of the above lines, in which the distance between stations is shown to scale. As can be clearly seen, with the exceptions of Barnstaple, Umberleigh, Eggesford and Crediton, usage of the Barnstaple line stations, including those served by every train, is very small compared with the other three lines; indeed, for the minor stations they resemble more closely the likely figures for a minibus service.
Figures 23 and 24 show this comparison in bar chart form. In the first of these figures the stations are shown grouped into the four lines whilst in the second they are considered as a single group, although the individual lines use the same colour coding. In both figures the conclusion is immediate: usage of the minor stations on the Barnstaple line pales into insignificance in comparison with the other three lines.
Stations in bold were served by all trains during the year.
Notes: 
1 
Barnstaple has more services than the other stations because the Friday night / Saturday morning late train back to Exeter St Davids served only Barnstaple and St Davids. 
2 
The percentage of Chapelton’s total footfalls is 0.032068, or 0.0 to the nearest single decimal place. 
Key: 
A 
Distance in miles to next station 
B 
Station 
C 
Total trains per station for the year 2014–2015. 
D 
Average number of trains per day serving each station, calculated from full weekly timetable (Monday–Friday, Saturday, Sunday) 
E 
Passengers for each station, 2014–2015: Office of Rail Regulation data 
F 
Calculated from column E, to single decimal place 
G 
Average number of passengers per day, based on 350 days (to allow for engineering and Bank Holiday closures), to single decimal place 
H 
Average number of passengers per train, calculated by number of passengers 2014–2015 (column E) ÷ number of trains serving station in 2014–2015 (column C), to single decimal place 
Compiled by North Devon Public Transport Users, December 2015
The Wider Context
We now consider the above station usage figures when compared with those for other rail lines radiating from Exeter, namely those to Axminster (and beyond to Salisbury and London Waterloo), Exmouth, and Paignton, which together with the Barnstaple branch comprise the Devon Metro project.
Figure 5 is a schematic diagram depicting the station usage figures for each of the above lines, in which the distance between stations is shown to scale. As can be clearly seen, with the exceptions of Barnstaple, Umberleigh, Eggesford and Crediton, usage of the Barnstaple line stations, including those served by every train, is very small compared with the other three lines; indeed, for the minor stations they resemble more closely the likely figures for a minibus service.
Figures 6 and 7 show this comparison in bar chart form. In the first of these figures the stations are shown grouped into the four lines whilst in the second they are considered as a single group, although the individual lines use the same colour coding. In both figures the conclusion is immediate: usage of the minor stations on the Barnstaple line pales into insignificance in comparison with the other three lines.
Stations in bold were served by all trains during the year.
Notes: 
1 
Barnstaple has more services than the other stations because the Friday night / Saturday morning late train back to Exeter St Davids served only Barnstaple and St Davids. 
2 
The percentage of Chapelton’s total footfalls is 0.0424951, or 0.0 to the nearest single decimal place. 
Key: 
A 
Distance in miles to next station 
B 
Station 
C 
Total trains per station for year 2013–2014, calculated from full weekly timetable (Monday–Friday, Saturday, Sunday) x 50 (to allow for engineering closures) 
D 
Average number of trains per day serving each station, calculated from full weekly timetable (Monday–Friday, Saturday, Sunday) 
E 
Passengers for each station, 2013–2014: Office of Rail Regulation [now Office of Rail and Road] data 
F 
Calculated from column E, to single decimal place 
G 
Average number of passengers per day, based on 350 days (to allow for engineering and Bank Holiday closures), to single decimal place 
H 
Average number of passengers per train, calculated by number of passengers 2013–2014 (column E) ÷ number of trains serving station in 2013–2014 (column C), to single decimal place 
Compiled by North Devon Public Transport Users, April 2015
Stations in bold were served by all trains during the year.
Notes: 
1 
Barnstaple has more services than the other stations because the Friday night / Saturday morning late train back to Exeter St Davids served only Barnstaple and St Davids. 
2 
The percentage of Chapelton’s total footfalls is 0.0365744, or 0.0 to the nearest single decimal place. 
Key: 
A 
Distance in miles to next station 
B 
Station 
C 
Total trains per station for year 2011–2012, calculated from First Great Western's full weekly timetables, 22 May 2011 to 10 December 2011 and 11 December 2011 to 13 May 2012 (Monday–Friday, Saturday, Sunday) x 50 (to allow for engineering closures) 
D 
Average number of trains per day serving each station, calculated from full weekly timetable (Monday–Friday, Saturday, Sunday) 
E 
Passengers for each station, 2011–2012: Office of Rail Regulation data 
F 
Calculated from column E, to single decimal place 
G 
Average number of passengers per day, based on 350 days (to allow for engineering and Bank Holiday closures), to single decimal place 
H 
Average number of passengers per train, calculated by number of passengers 2011–2012 (column E) ÷ number of trains serving station in 2011–2012 (column C), to single decimal place 
Compiled by North Devon Public Transport Users, April 2013
Notes: 
1 
Footfalls at each station as a percentage of the line’s total (column F from Table 2 above) 
2 
Red bars denote Northern Devon Town stations, blue bars denote Crediton Devon Town stations. 
Stations in bold were served by all trains during the year.
Notes: 
1 
Barnstaple has more services than the other stations because the Friday night / Saturday morning late train back to Exeter St Davids served only Barnstaple and St Davids. Just 20 extra trains because the service was introduced only part way through the 2010–2011 year. 
2 
The percentage of Chapelton’s total footfalls is 0.0402229, or 0.0 to the nearest single decimal place. 
Key: 
A 
Distance in miles to next station 
B 
Station 
C 
Total trains per station for year 2010–2011, calculated from full weekly timetable (Monday–Friday, Saturday, Sunday) x 50 (to allow for engineering closures) 
D 
Average number of trains per day serving each station, calculated from full weekly timetable (Monday–Friday, Saturday, Sunday) 
E 
Passengers for each station, 2010–2011: First Great Western timetable for May 2010 to December 2011, with additions for the late evening service introduced for the final 20 weeks of the timetable of the service begun in the December 
F 
Calculated from column E, to single decimal place 
G 
Average number of passengers per day, based on 350 days (to allow for engineering and Bank Holiday closures), to single decimal place 
H 
Average number of passengers per train, calculated by number of passengers 2010–2011 (column E) ÷ number of trains serving station in 2010–2011 (column C), to single decimal place 
Compiled by North Devon Public Transport Users, June 2012
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